Single-cell analysis reveals the chemotherapy-induced cellular reprogramming and novel therapeutic targets in relapsed/refractory acute myeloid leukemia

Leukemia. 2023 Feb;37(2):308-325. doi: 10.1038/s41375-022-01789-6. Epub 2022 Dec 21.


Chemoresistance and relapse are the leading cause of AML-related deaths. Utilizing single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq), we dissected the cellular states of bone marrow samples from primary refractory or short-term relapsed AML patients and defined the transcriptional intratumoral heterogeneity. We found that compared to proliferating stem/progenitor-like cells (PSPs), a subpopulation of quiescent stem-like cells (QSCs) were involved in the chemoresistance and poor outcomes of AML. By performing longitudinal scRNA-seq analyses, we demonstrated that PSPs were reprogrammed to obtain a QSC-like expression pattern during chemotherapy in refractory AML patients, characterized by the upregulation of CD52 and LGALS1 expression. Flow cytometric analysis further confirmed that the preexisting CD99+CD49d+CD52+Galectin-1+ (QSCs) cells at diagnosis were associated with chemoresistance, and these cells were further enriched in the residual AML cells of refractory patients. Interaction of CD52-SIGLEC10 between QSCs and monocytes may contribute to immune evading and poor outcomes. Furthermore, we identified that LGALS1 was a promising target for chemoresistant AML, and LGALS1 inhibitor could help eliminate QSCs and enhance the chemotherapy in patient-derived primary AML cells, cell lines, and AML xenograft models. Our results will facilitate a better understanding of the AML chemoresistance mechanism and the development of novel therapeutic strategies for relapsed/refractory AML patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Cellular Reprogramming
  • Galectin 1 / genetics
  • Galectin 1 / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute* / drug therapy
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute* / genetics
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute* / metabolism
  • Single-Cell Analysis


  • Galectin 1
  • Antineoplastic Agents